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Fees Remain in Limbo for 2 Acquitted in King Case : Finances: City Council cannot agree on whether to pay $250,000 to Briseno and Wind for legal costs.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles City Council could not agree Wednesday whether to pay the legal bills of the two police officers acquitted of violating Rodney G. King’s civil rights.

In a closed-door session, six council members voted in favor of paying the officers a total of $250,000 to put an end to the King matter. Seven others feared that making the payment might somehow endorse the officers’ conduct.

The issue may be taken up again Friday.

The city attorney’s office had recommended that the city pay about $250,000 for the legal cost of defending Theodore J. Briseno and Timothy E. Wind. Not settling with the officers could result in an even higher court-ordered award, officials warned.

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“The risk is there that the city could have to pay substantially more,” said City Atty. James Hahn.

In April, 1993, a federal court jury acquitted Briseno and Wind for their roles in the March 3, 1991, arrest and beating of King. Both of them, however, have been fired by the Police Department for their conduct.

Two other former officers, Stacey C. Koon and Laurence M. Powell, were found guilty of violating King’s civil rights and are serving 30-month prison sentences. The city has refused to pay their legal bills.

The $250,000 would be a settlement with Briseno and Wind to prevent them from seeking higher legal fees in court. Already, the city has been forced to pay $3.8 million in civil penalties--and potentially more in legal fees--to King as a result of the videotaped beating.

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“This is a really disgraceful day for the city of L.A.,” said Harland Braun, one of Briseno’s attorneys. “Here’s a guy who . . . was criminally tried twice and acquitted, who has now been fired by the LAPD and is now financially ruined.”

Some council members said they did not want to send a message that the two acted appropriately.

“I just think that the fact they want a quarter of a million dollars of taxpayers’ money, given their role in this matter, is unreasonable,” said Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas.

But those who voted to settle with the officers said they were doing so to save the city money.

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“The bottom line is, we’re going to have to pay it,” said Councilman Mike Hernandez. “Do we pay some now or more later?”

Sources said council members Richard Alarcon, Laura Chick, Ruth Galanter, Nate Holden, Ridley-Thomas, Joel Wachs and Rita Walters voted against payment.

Council members Hal Bernson, Marvin Braude, John Ferraro, Hernandez, Rudy Svorinich and Zev Yaroslavsky voted to settle. Council members Jackie Goldberg and Richard Alatorre were absent.


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